Portuguese White Port: A Surprising, Bracing Summer Aperitif Wine

We recently discovered the Alves de Sousa NV Caldas Porto White in one of our sweet wine tastings for the upcoming report on Sweet Wines of the World. It reminded us of white Ports we have tasted in the Douro, often served on the rocks with a twist of citrus. We tried this with the Caldas, and the result was delicious—the ice both dilutes and reduces the heat of the 19.5% alcohol, while the light sweetness and nuttiness of the wine persist. If you want to surprise and please your guests this summer, consider offering a well-chilled white Port on the rocks.

White Port is made from white grapes—usually some combination of Gouveio, Codega, Malvasis Fina, Rabigato, Viosinho and/or Esgana Cão. It’s fermented like red Port, with pure grape spirits added to stop the fermentation, leaving some residual sugar. It is then often aged either in wood or in cement or stainless steel. Aging in traditional Portuguese wood barrels (pipes) lends a nutty, slighty caramel or butterscotch note to the wine, while aging in stainless steel preserves more of the fruit aromas and flavors. Our preference is for light oak aging to lend interest and complexity to the wine. A white Port labeled lágrima is especially rich and viscuous.

Good quality White Port isn’t all that easy to find, but it’s worth the search. In addition to the Alves de Sousa Caldas Porto White (imported by the Artisan Collection), look for Churchill’s White Port (imported by Frederick Wildman and Sons), Ramos Pinto Lágrima (imported by Maison Marques & Domaines), and Dow’s White Port (imported by Symington).

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